Gutbrain Records

Monday, 14 July 2008

The seventeenth Soundtrack of the Week is this 4-CD set of rejected scores by Elmer Bernstein.

The set contains scores for three movies, Gangs of New York, The Journey of Natty Gann and The Scarlet Letter. Gangs of New York is the only one of these I've seen and I remember being disappointed by its score (by Howard Shore, whose work I often like). Bernstein's score — which he composed, conducted and recorded, as with the other two here — is much, much better, more dramatic, truer to the period.

The Scarlet Letter score is also great, perhaps too good for the movie, which I've heard nothing but awful things about. Perhaps that's the reason they decided not to use Bernstein's music and went with music by John Barry, another great composer who has on occasion churned out some lackluster "romantic" soundtrack music. While I haven't seen the movie, I have listened to Barry's score several times and it's one of his weakest efforts. It certainly wouldn't make a list of top ten John Barry soundtracks. It also wouldn't make a top twenty or top fifty.

The score for The Journey of Natty Gann is not as compelling as the other two but it's still quite good. It's sad that work of this caliber should be dumped and replaced with inferior products. Varese Sarabande has done a great service by making available this previously lost music.